for Alice


Five a.m.—the soft percussion of the rain
on the slanted rooftop of my study.
I study it: a single drop dropping again
and again at one second intervals,
like the ticking of a watery clock
above my head. Off to my right,
it comes down in loose clusters,
an absent-minded thrumming of fingers
on a tabletop, random, irregular,
or falling in a pattern I can’t perceive.
It’s too dark to see the rain as it falls,
only the reflection of my room
projected onto the empty space beyond
my window—an old Norse word
made from two other words: wind and eye.
My bookcases float blurrily
in the air above the alley,
I tap the keyboard and words appear,
and now the rain appears to be hesitating,
or reconsidering, though it will likely
fall all day long on the bamboo trees
I cannot see, the glorybower, the lilacs
and azaleas readying themselves,
summoning their flowers from the depths
of nonexistence, three kinds of Japanese
maples and the improbable ferns,
huge and flamelike, heart-shaped,
that edge the yard. Last night we stopped
and stepped backward when we crossed
a sidewalk puddle where the moon
had fallen between a reflection
of rootlike branches and swiftly
passing clouds to hover underneath us.
As above, so below, the old alchemists said,
everything mirroring everything else,
falling and rising and falling.
We lingered looking down, then
stepped over the moon and came home.



John Brehm is the author of two books of poems, Sea of Faith and Help Is on the Way, the editor of The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy, and the associate editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, The Sun, New Ohio Review, Missouri Review, The Norton Introduction to Literature, Best American Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches for Literary Arts and Mountain Writers Series.



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